J. Ford Huffman – ScribbleLive http://www.scribblelive.com ScribbleLive is the leading end-to-end platform for content marketing engagement. Mon, 15 Aug 2016 17:27:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://s3.amazonaws.com/scribblelive-com-prod/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/favicon-91x80.png J. Ford Huffman – ScribbleLive http://www.scribblelive.com 32 32 A Few Words About Words – For Designers and Artists http://www.scribblelive.com/blog/2012/04/09/a-few-words-about-words-for-designers-and-artists/ Tue, 10 Apr 2012 00:21:17 +0000 http://www.scribblelive.com/blog/2012/04/09/a-few-words-about-words-for-designers-and-artists/ Huffman is one of the professionals and professors who spoke at the first Designing for the Divide conference at West Virginia University in Morgantown, sponsored by the Art and Design department with support from the School of Journalism. Presentations at the two-day conference in late March focused on design’s role Read more...

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Huffman is one of the professionals and professors who spoke at the first Designing for the Divide conference at West Virginia University in Morgantown, sponsored by the Art and Design department with support from the School of Journalism. Presentations at the two-day conference in late March focused on design’s role in bridging social divides. Part of Huffman’s message was about the need for clarity and simplicity in reaching and keeping an audience – new and diverse audiences – on any platform or device, and he offered these tips as a handout:  
Headlines. Display type. Captions. Text in a copy block.

Each is a form that helps tell and sell readers about the message you are trying to communicate. They’re directional (telling someone where else to look, giving you a hint of what’s worth going to the next page for) and they’re informational (giving you what you need to know now.) Each block of type is a prominent entry point, an opportunity to grab a reader. What must the words (and the art) do? To be successful they must: Sell and tell. That’s their function. Be energetic. Use verbs. Propel readers to action. Persuade them to take action. Notice how every sentence in this paragraph starts with a verb. See what I mean? Sound omniscient but never use such a big word. Text must let the reader know the piece’s right hand knows what its left hand is doing. Words must know it all. Be simple. Simple sells. Sometimes the best way is the straightforward way. When in doubt, don’t try to be clever. Instead, use facts clearly and directly. Facts persuade more quickly than opinion does. What words are functional and essential? What words are decorative and optional? (Ask these two questions about art elements, also.) Speak authoritatively and distinctively but use the language you use in conversation. (Polite conversation.) Words must talk to readers. They must be conversational no matter the topic. Read the text aloud. If you stumble, readers will stumble, too. Attract, invite, intrigue, encourage, evoke, promote, promise and inform. Simultaneously. Concisely. Occasionally take the opportunity to be witty. Clever. Playful. Avoid ‘funny’ because humor is subjective and easily misinterpreted. The words can play off a popular catch phrase, for example. But be careful. If the cleverness obscures the topic, the value of the wit is lost. When in doubt, use the non-clever. ‘Get it.’ Make sure you are not the only person who “gets” the connection to the cultural reference. Ask a colleague (preferably a coworker who doesn’t look like you) if she gets it. Not everyone shares all your life experiences – even in this information culture. Reinforce content. Readers try to connect the main headline with the main art on any layout. They try to connect the words and the pictures. The type must reinforce its image; its image must reinforce its type. If not, the reader misses the connection and the communication fails. (Communication is about making connections.) Involve readers, not staffers. “We” in text does not include me, the reader. Rather than write “We explore the latest research . . .” instead tell the reader what the research says. Sell the content, not the source. Readers don’t know if “we” is the editorial we or the Queen. ‘We’ can seem arrogant and can exclude. ‘You’ includes. Spell it right. Misspelled words, lousy grammar and poor punctuation make an otherwise professional piece lose credibility and look amateurish. Use a dictionary. Proofread. Copyedit. Then proofread again. If you don’t know when to use its or it’s, their or there, your and you’re, to and too, then you’ve been reading too many Facebook posts. Ask somebody who knows the language to edit your work. She can hardly wait. (Not “She can’t wait to edit you’re work.”) Seek an editor with eyes and ears outside your immediate world. (Not “outside of” your world. One preposition suffices. “Outside” stands on its own. Not it’s own.) Read The Elements of Style by Strunk and White and then read it again. J. Ford Huffman was design editor of the first two prototype editions of USA TODAY and was a deputy managing editor when he left the newspaper in 2007. (Circulation has since gone down.) He has worked with The Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle and Hindustan Times (India) and is a Visual.ly advisor.

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The Importance of Being Earnest in Editing Visuals http://www.scribblelive.com/blog/2012/03/13/the-importance-of-being-earnest-in-editing-visuals/ Tue, 13 Mar 2012 22:43:00 +0000 http://www.scribblelive.com/blog/2012/03/13/the-importance-of-being-earnest-in-editing-visuals/ In the olden days – 30 years ago – when many U.S. newspapers were beginning to use more graphics as storytelling devices, some newsroom staffers often considered those visuals to be illustrative rather than informative. Art, some news folks thought, didn’t have to be edited or proofread. After all, art Read more...

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In the olden days – 30 years ago – when many U.S. newspapers were beginning to use more graphics as storytelling devices, some newsroom staffers often considered those visuals to be illustrative rather than informative. Art, some news folks thought, didn’t have to be edited or proofread. After all, art wasn’t real journalism or real content. Art was just art. “Read news art the same way you read a news story,” I pleaded to copy editors and reporters in a handout I distributed in newsrooms and at workshops. “Don’t think of a graphic as an illustration that need not be proofread.” The world of visual information has gotten technically and aesthetically more sophisticated in the last three decades, and the process of editing informational graphics has improved. The evidence is on news pages – print and digital – everywhere. Just take a look at the visuals that are shared on Visual.ly. But everybody (including this writer) needs a copy editor. Visual journalist Charles Apple makes this point occasionally in the reports on his blog, The Visual Side of Journalism. Two cases: 1. Ideas on ideology

What’s Your Political Typology? was recently posted on Visual.ly, and the work caught my attention when Tokyo journalist Satoshi Toyoshima – a former Gannett colleague – shared the link on Facebook. When I looked at the graphic I was impressed with its use of color and its organization. Then I started reading the words and the art. Immediately I had questions, questions that a newspaper or news-site reader ought not have:

  • A label refers to “Unregistered Cons.” Are cons former convicts? What is an “Originalist,” the only category that has no text definition?
  • The ideology circles representing Republicans, “Main Streeters,” and those unregistered prisoners called cons are the same size. Does this mean all ideologies are populated equally? Sure looks like it.
  • The circles overlap, indicating that everybody shares ideologies. What’s the difference between the circle’s indigo Libertarian and its brown Libertarian?
  • Where on the graphic is the source of the information? Why is the upper-case style not consistent? Are “solid liberals” really the “most popular” ideology, as the fever line indicates? If so, ought the graphic take the opportunity to explain why and how? Would a reader find the pie charts easier to read if the percentage figures were inside the pies instead of below them?

I went to the source of the graphic, Boost Labs, and asked. CEO Ali Allage was effusively appreciative. “Thanks for the interest in our work and the awesome feedback.” Turns out the visual, as posted on Visual.ly, is a work in progress. (Who knew?) Boost Labs “never expected such response” the the posting, Allage said. “A more detailed infographic will be released soon with more depth and refinement” and “will be more concise and contain more information.” “We hope it will be more viral as a result,” he said. 2. Classical gas

NPR’s look at the cost of gasoline, shared on Facebook by Doctrine Man, raised questions in this reader’s mind a week ago. Did one of the parts reverse colors between legend and map? Should the copy say “its” instead of “it’s”? I raised those questions to a contact at NPR, and those two questions are answered in the current version. Another, larger question for Visual.ly readers: Should a graphic about the price of gasoline use “gasoline” and “gas” interchangeably, and if so, will some readers think “gas” refers to natural gas?

The take-away

The intent of this article is not to slap the fingers of the creators of these two informative graphics. Rather, the article hopes to remind editors that:

  1. Each of us needs to make sure somebody else earnestly reads and edits and proofreads our work before publication.
  2. Sharing a graphic on a site such as Visual.ly allows folks around the globe to read and comment and suggest ways the work can become more compelling and meaningful for readers.

  J. Ford Huffman was design editor of the first two prototype editions of USA TODAY, and was a deputy managing editor when he left the newspaper in 2007. (Circulation has since gone down.) He has worked with The Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle and Hindustan Times (India) and is a Visual.ly advisor.

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